Macarons vs Macaroons

It happened again.  I recently caught myself wincing at the teatime menu’s English version. This time it was in one of Paris’s most elegant tea salons, where the famously stylish Parisian “macarons” were translated as “macaroons”.

I know, it’s not one of the world’s first problems, but get it right.

Macarons and macaroons perhaps sound alike, but they are both totally different.

Macarons vs Macaroons

This confusion with an extra “o” is nothing new; it happens frequently, whether it’s on a top tearoom menu in Paris or on high-end supermarket packaging around the world. Even a UK bookshop snootily turned down stocking my first book five years ago, simply because the title read “Macarons” and not “Macaroons”. It’s a subject that has been raised often, but the same mistake continues like a couple of crêpes on deaf ears.

I’m perhaps mad about macarons, but if you’re just as infatuated with Paris’s Ambassador of Pastry, with its smooth delicate meringue-like shells sandwiched together with chocolate ganache, jam, curd or buttercream, its name needs to be defended. I’m not being posh or trying to show off I can speak some French after 24 years of living here – it’s just that the term, macaron is the right word to use to describe these little filled rainbow-coloured Parisian confections.

Over the last four years of guiding pastry tours in Paris, I’m still surprised by the recurring question: “So what’s the difference between macarons and macaroons?”

bitten macarons by Jill Colonna

Food lovers are evidently still puzzled. How on earth can two deliciously dainty confections create such mystery?

The only similarity between the two is their gluten-free mutual ingredients of egg whites and sugar; a macaron includes ground almonds (almond flour), whilst a macaroon is made with coconut.

So let’s get it straight with the simplest answer: the macaron is meringue-based and the macaroon is coconut based.

But there’s more to it than that.

macarons vs macaroons Jill Colonna

Is it a macaron? A rougher looking amaretti cookie and a Parisian Gerbet macaron

MACARONS

Macarons date back to the middle ages but we have a better idea of its history during the Renaissance – first cited by French writer Rabelais – when the Venetian macarone (meaning a fine paste of something crushed) of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar was brought to France by Catherine de Medici and her chefs when she married the future King of France in 1533, Henri II. It was a meringue-like biscuit but a much rougher looking type of confection, predominantly tasting of almonds and looking rather like an amaretti biscuit.

In France, the macaron’s super-model upgrade wasn’t made famous until the 1900s. This is the modern smooth, coloured macaron as we know it today, that’s now creating the confusion, known as the Parisian or Gerbet macaron. Ernest Ladurée’s second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines takes the credit for inventing these sandwiched confections – although this calls for yet more delicious, historical homework. Most importantly, a macaron is not a Parisian macaron unless it has a ruffled, frilly foot underneath that smooth, shiny surface.

But even the macaron can be a confusing term today, as there are also many French regional varieties using the same ingredients as the Parisian macaron but the proportions are completely different. Each resemble more the original Italian macaron introduced by Catherine de Medici and many date back to around the French Revolution. Each region adds its own twist and, as a result, they all look so different (check out just some of the variations here).

For example, in Picardy, the Amiens macaron speciality adds marzipan, fruits and honey. Other prize-winning French regional macarons continue today in Boulay, Chartres, Cormery, Le Dorat, Joyeuse, Montmorillan (which looks more like an round almond cakes), Nancy, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Croix, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (created for Louis XIV’s wedding in 1660) and Sault.

macaron vs macaroon coconut or almond version

Macaron on the left (don’t be confused with the coconut on top, I was just being funny); Macaroon on the right. Both recipes in “Teatime in Paris”

MACAROONS

Simpler and quicker to prepare, the coconut macaroon is also known as rocher coco or congolais in French. Sometimes the macaroon confection with shredded or flaked coconut – either star or cone-shaped – is dipped in chocolate.

It’s not clear when macaroons came on the scene but one thing is for sure: it was added to this gluten-free treat around the 1800s when coconut was brought from the East.

Just pronouncing macaroon makes us want to roll the “r” like we do in Scotland – and it’s no coincidence that us Scots are proud of the Scottish Macaroon bar: it’s particularly sweet since the fondant inside is primarily sugar and potato (trust the Scots to think of that one!) and coated with a thin layer of chocolate and coconut. I wonder if Catherine de Medici’s successor, Mary Queen of Scots as French queen brought it in her year-long reign as Queen of France?

Scottish macaroon bar homemade snowballs, just like Lee's classic

Last Christmas I adapted the large traditional bar to make these mini Scottish Macaroon bar snowballs. If you want to see the real thing, head over to Christina Conte’s blog at Christina’s Cucina to see how to make the real McCoy bars!

To puzzle us further, there’s yet another exception to the rule of almonds and coconut: there are plenty of macaroon recipes outside of France which use pie crust or pastry as a base and the macaroon reference is a mixture of coconut and/or almond toppings. For example, see this recipe for macaroon jam tarts.

Macaroon Jam tarts

Macaroon jam tarts

MACARONS vs MACAROONS

So before the confusion spreads any further between macaron and macaroon, let’s nip it in the bud.  In all their varying forms, the macaroon refers to the coconut confection; the macaron today, unless a regional version is mentioned, refers to the Parisian or Gerbet macaron – the shiny, dainty version. Just don’t forget its frilly foot.

Now it’s your turn: if you spread the macaron word, it will be no mean feat!


 

This article was published over at BonjourParis.com

Maple Granola – Homemade Breakfast Cereal

This maple granola has turned me into a cereal blogger (pun totally intended). Why not make this for Mother’s Day?

So, how do you often start the day?

I’m an easy camper, happy with a slice of multigrain toast; or a tartine of toasted baguette with a scraping of good Normandy butter; or sometimes my favourite homemade brioche and jam. If we have more time together as a family on Sundays, the ultimate treat are the flakiest, buttery croissants from the local boulangerie.

healthy oat fruit maple breakfast cereal

Breakfast cereal somehow dropped down the shopping list since I moved to France. Why? The answer is simply Paris; wouldn’t you also be tempted, surrounded by all those amazing bakeries with croissants, pain au chocolats and pain aux raisins, just for morning starters?

It’s confession time: each time I saw homemade granola on friends’ blogs, such as Kim of LivLife’s lovely cinnamon and coconut cereal, I should have picked up on it like a good serial blogger.

homemade breakfast cereal maple granola

My final “Just-do-it” push came via an old thumbed Elle magazine at the orthodontist’s waiting room. One of the only recipes that wasn’t ripped out was for a maple granola, so I tried it. Boy was it overly sweet! Read ridiculously sweet.

Cutting out the Sugar

It took many experiments to come to this to suit our Antoine’s taste – not too many nuts, more oats please, oh I love the graines de courges (pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds) for that crunch but not too crunchy. The magazine’s recipe has, as a result, changed beyond recognition and its original whopping 140g sugar has now been omitted entirely. You don’t need it; the dried fruits and the maple syrup are naturally sweet.  You could use the coconut oil but I honestly prefer it with the neutral oil.  So here is our favourite cereal, totally subjective, of course: adapt the quantities and ingredients to your own liking but try this first!

Warning: you’ll discover that this has to be made at least once a week. The good news is, by going to our local organic health food store (La Vie Claire), I’m cutting down costs on bigger packs of oats and seeds and they’re better quality too.  Ensure that your ingredients are organic. Your body will thank you.

 

Maple Granola – Homemade Breakfast Cereal

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

300g oats
100g pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
75g walnuts, broken
25g linseeds

pinch salt (fleur de sel)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
(optional)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (neutral tasting oil or coconut oil, melted if solid)
5 tbsp maple syrup
10g flaked/slivered almonds
100g dried cranberries, blueberries, or raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan).

2. Measure* all the ingredients (except the almonds and dried fruits) in a large bowl and stir to mix them all well together.

3. Grease a large rimmed baking tray with more oil or use a baking tray covered with baking paper (or a Silpat) and spread out the oat mixture by shaking the tray gently from side to side.

4. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, turn over the mixture and sprinkle on the slivered almonds and bake for a further 10 minutes.

5. Leave to cool then add the dried fruits.

Serve with milk or yogurt and fresh berries. I love to sprinkle on a teaspoon of bee pollen, which is not only natural tasting of honey but it’s good for boosting the body’s immune and digestive system a couple of times a year.

* I use digital scales.  If you’re used to using ounces, then just switch over to grams. 

oat and maple healthy breakfast granola cereal

I just about forgot that it’s Mother’s Day in the UK this weekend.  As I have a French diary where Mother’s Day is highlighted for 25 May, I had it in my mind that the UK was at the end of the month!

That’s a great excuse to make macarons again. What favourite flavours do you think would be ideal for Mother’s Day?


 

Update!   

Brazil nut homemade granola recipe

After our visit to Brazil, I’ve replaced this maple granola dried fruit with pineapple and guava, replaced the walnuts with broken brazil nuts, and added a touch of ground cinnamon and cloves.  Try it!

Happy New Year with a Cheesecake from Paris!

Happy New Year to you with this Orange Cinnamon Cheesecake from a chilly Paris!  I hope you all had a chance to have a good break, pick up a book now and again, stick your feet up and enjoy spending time with the family.  If you’re like me, you may have also spent much quality time in the kitchen – but it’s my favourite, cosy haven to concoct new dishes and bring out old favourites to the table, making the family happy bunnies.

Orange and cinnamon cheesecake with macarons for Teatime in Paris

A cheesecake fit for a King or Queen this Epiphany and for a macaron blog

While I’m making the traditional royal French Galettes des Rois this week for Epiphany, I’ve also had a crescendoing urge to make … cheesecake!  Julie is the greatest cheesecake fan I know –  training her eye to spot them from a distance – as New York-style cheesecakes are gradually appearing more in Parisian pâtisseries. Since her major discovery of Gontran Cherrier‘s deliciously tangy Yuzu and lime cheesecake, festive shopping trips to St Germain-en-Laye up the road have had a major attack on her pocket money. So, Mum to the rescue, it was high time to stock up on some cream cheese and make one family-sized this weekend.  Besides, I wanted to ensure she was eating enough fruit.  Excuses over.

orange cheesecake decor close-up

In my RECIPES TO DO pile, has been the most sumptuous-looking cheesecake on the 7th cover edition of Fou de Pâtisserie magazine: by Chef Jean-François Piège.  He owns Thoumieux: a restaurant, a hotel and brasserie (see my reviews here), plus one of my favourite pâtisseries in Paris, Gâteau Thoumieux – at 58 rue Saint Dominique.

Chef Piège’s ingredients’ list is precise with 401g of cream cheese, but I should have taken note in step 2 that you only need 300g of the base – I used all of it in the recipe which was too much for a 16cm diameter cheesecake mould.  The next time I make this, I’ll reduce the base by a 1/3 and add a little more butter, just to keep it better together.  However, the extra base was excellent as a crumble topping!  The cream cheese was divine – I added half the zest of an unwaxed orange, just to give it that extra tang.  He doesn’t mention this, but I recommend that your cream cheese filling ingredients are all at room temperature in order to mix well.

Teatime in Paris with cheesecake and macarons

Le Cheesecake de Gâteau Thoumieux
Orange & Cinnamon Cheesecake

Adapted recipe by Jean-François Piège and Ludovic Chaussard (Paris), extract from Fou de Pâtisserie magazine, September-October 2014 Number 7 (Cover feature).

Serves 6
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Biscuit base:

260g plain flour (type 55)
110g butter 1
55g icing/powdered sugar
1 egg
1g salt
1g orange and lemon zest
(I added 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
65g butter 2
35g soft brown sugar

Cream Cheese:

400g Philadelphia cream cheese (or St Moret, Kiri)
50g sugar
55g single cream
1 egg yolk
2 eggs
(I added the zest of half an unwaxed orange) 

Decoration:

Rose petals, coriander and parsley flowers, quenelles de mascarpone, almond streusel (According to the winter season, I instead used physallis, pomegranate jewels and my leftover macarons – over to your imagination!)

1. Make a shortcrust pastry with all the ingredients except the Butter 2 and soft brown sugar.  Bake the pastry then, using a paddle beater of a mixer, break up into pieces when cool. (I mixed all the ingredients to a crumb consistency like shortbread and baked in the oven at 160°C fan /180°C for about 15 minutes). Add the Butter 2 and brown sugar.  Mould 300g of the cheesecake biscuit round by 16cm diameter.  Set aside.

2. To make the cream, mix the Philadelphia cheese with the sugar then gradually add the yolk, eggs and cream together.

3. To finish, pour the cream mix over the base and bake at 90°C for about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Leave to cool in the fridge.  Just before serving, decorate with the above suggestions.

orange cinnamon cheesecake with macarons

Another reason to have a stock of macarons in your freezer ‘bank’!

Now that we’ve devoured plenty of sweet treats this festive season, I’m back to soups and lighter savoury delights for a few days.  All the extra courses are now beginning to hang like a brioche over the jeans, which is not so sweet!  So it’s back to the yoga tomorrow but I also fancy trying out chef Piège’s Pizza Soufflé, a popular signature dish in his brasserie.

Join me on Instragram and Facebook for a daily dose of photos from Paris and the suburbs – this week I’m sure you’ll see scenes from the French Sales (les Soldes) as of 7th January, plenty more Galette des rois cakes decorating the pastry shop windows and baking them chez vous.

Red Onion Chevre Tatin for Ann Mah’s Tuesday Dinner

I’m thrilled to be a guest over at Ann Mah’s Tuesday Dinner series. If you remember, Ann inspired me to pack my bags and jump on the train to France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon. Reading her book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, you may just find yourself doing the same! When I met Ann in Paris we munched on macarons with chocolat chaud but today it’s virtual and savoury.

Red Onion and Goat Cheese Chèvre Tarte Tatin

In short, this is one of my favourite savoury dishes that’s handy to make with basic ingredients I like to keep in the fridge and pantry. It’s also so easy that it’s not much of a recipe. By following a classic tarte tatin recipe (see Mango and Orange Tarte Tatin for example), you can make up your own creations using different fruit and vegetables.

This is a baked version of a French salade de chèvre chaud (packed with onions en plus) since it can be made easily in advance and popped in the oven while picking up the kids. It’s also great for all seasons and, depending on who’s sitting at the table, it can be dressed either up or down for something simple but oh-là-là effective.

Here’s the recipe but pop over to Ann’s website for the chatty part, which is far more interesting! It’s always a delight to see when someone has made the recipe.

Red Onion and Chèvre Tarte Tatin

Serves 4 as a light dinner

Special equipment: a frying pan that can transfer to the oven

2 large onions
2 red onions
large knob of butter (30g)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp herbes de Provence
3 crottins de chavignol (fresh goat’s cheese)
1 ready-rolled puff pastry round (all butter is best)
Handful of walnuts

1.  Peel and cut the onions into thin slices. Meanwhile, over a medium-low flame, melt the butter with a dash of olive oil in a sauté pan that can be transferred to the oven. Add the onions to the pan and leave to soften and cook for 20 minutes, turning only once or twice to coat the onions in the butter and oil.

2.  Preheat the oven to temperature suggested on box of puff pastry.

how to make savoury tart tatin

An upside down tart so the cheese is hidden. Woah!

3. Stir the balsamic vinegar, herbes de Provence and salt and pepper into the onions. Slice the crottins of goat cheese in half horizontally and distribute them on top of the packed caramelised onions. Top with the large disk of puff pastry, tucking it in around the sides of the pan. Prick the pastry with the fork then transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

4.  Remove from the oven. Place a plate larger than the pan over the top. Turn the tatin upside down quickly on to the plate.

Serve with a salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and extra toasted walnuts.

best onion tarte tatin recipe with goat cheese

Make this tarte tatin with white onions, too, and serve with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Ideally, serve a wine from the Loire Valley since it’s The French region for goats cheeses. For a change from Sancerre, why not serve a Quincy?

That now makes two tatins at the table, ready for dinner tonight chez Ann Mah.

Bon Appétit! 

Silicone Macaron Mat Review

For all the macarons I’ve churned out in the past few years, have you also noticed that there are trendy kitchen gadgets such as a silicone macaron mat in specialised baking shops? When Mum told me my cousin, Julie, made wonderful macarons for a family party (using the book) and that she was using a macaron mat, I thought it was about time to jump on the bandwagon and try one out myself.

So I bought myself a Mastrad macaron matThis post is not referring to a silicone Silpat mat, but a special macaron mat with circles. (Incidentally, I don’t use a plain Silpat mat as it tends to overcook macarons…)

Although it’s referred to as a small macaron baking sheet, it’s rather a large mat (42cm x 33cm; 17″x13″) and so the small is referring to the size of macarons. In America this may be an extra small size, but in France this is more of the normal size that we find in the pâtisseries in Paris, albeit just a little smaller. The mat produces 56 shells for 28 macarons.

Silicone macaron mat review comparison with baking parchment paper

It was great to see so many macarons condensed onto one tray. If you see the photo on the left, however, you will see that my macarons are not quite round.  Why?  Well, although it may look easy I had to pipe the batter right into the middle of the raised rounds. By the time the batter spread out a little (as they normally do), I realised that some of my piping wasn’t quite directly in the middle. I’m so used to piping quickly free-hand.

Although I missed the centre on some of them, the majority turned out in perfect circles.  On the other hand, the mat was too big for my large baking sheet. The result was that the batter moved and produced some oval macarons which were not so pretty. I would, therefore, recommend that you use a baking sheet that is large enough to support the mat, such as this aluminium 18×14 baking sheet.

small macaron feet using a macaron silicone mat

Oh what little feet we have

Baking the macarons using the mat took an extra 4-5 minutes compared to the ones being baked just on baking parchment.

In general, the end result was satisfactory but I really wasn’t happy that the macarons’ feet were much flatter than I normally achieve by piping directly onto baking parchment/paper. I also found that the macarons tended to stick to the mat, creating a shiny surface underneath.  I would recommend oiling the mat slightly before piping to avoid this.

review of silicone macaron mat

flat-footed macarons?

Being so used to piping out macarons free hand, I find it much easier to use simple baking parchment (good quality) and pipe out rounds quickly.

perfect macaron shell feet using baking paper

We have much better feet, see? Baking parchment is all we need…

After a few batches I stopped using the silicone mat for macarons; it’s too time consuming to relearn how to pipe the batter into the centre of the silicone rounds on the mat.  So that my money doesn’t go to waste, I’ve used it for making chocolate mendiants.

how to make chocolate disks or French mendiants

I also used the macaron mat for preparing French chouquettes (mini choux buns topped with pearl sugar.) It was interesting to see that they turned out slightly flatter compared to ones piped out onto my Silpat silicone baking mat.

using a macaron silicone mat to make chouquettes

Left: silicone macaron mat with circles (the subject of this post); Right: Plain silicone mat

Silicone Macaron Mat: My Verdict

The mat is an extra luxury; you don’t need it, especially if you already enjoy baking and have a few practises with the piping bag. First-time users with a piping bag can find it awkward at first and, although the mat provides extra confidence in piping out uniform rounds, you still need to practise piping out the rounds directly in the middle and just enough so that the batter doesn’t go over the raised rounds. The positive side is that you can fit more macarons on to the one sheet.

If you do prefer using the mat, I would encourage you to ensure you have a baking sheet that is large enough to hold the full mat, so check your sizes first as I recommend above.

I still prefer using good quality baking parchment for the best macaron shell results with a perfect foot.

chocolate macaron shells baked on baking parchment

Have you bought a macaron mat recently?  What do you think?

If you’re in Paris, join me or my sweet colleagues for much more macaron talk on a chocolate, pastry and macaron walk with Context Travel!  And if you’re wanting a macaron recipe that works, you need Mad About Macarons.

UPDATE! Now you have Teatime in Paris, with not just a chapter on how to make macarons but éclairs, tarts, millefeuilles, and many more French pastry treats…


Note: This is a personal review and not sponsored by anybody: Mastrad did not contact me. As I see them in so many shops and readers ask me if they should buy it, I bought the mat myself, curious to try. All ideas and opinions are my own in the interest of my macaron-making friends. If any company wishes to contact me to convince me otherwise, however, then I am totally open to doing a new review …

Chestnut Vanilla Ice Cream

Baby it’s cold outside. I’ve been humming this song most of the week, although now we’re singing in the rain outside Paris. While singing, this Chestnut Vanilla ice cream has been churning for a light and easy dessert to finish off a big holiday menu.

chestnut vanilla ice cream

My youngest daughter is mad about chestnuts in all forms. If I mention this magic word, Lucie’s smile makes me melt quicker than the contents of this bowl. She’s obsessed about roasted chestnuts: either simply tossed along with pumpkin, bacon, or with green beans, or willing to sacrifice precious pocket money for an expensive poke at the exit of a Paris metro station.

She nibbles at luxury marrons glacés as if she was Charlie with a golden-ticketed chocolate bar, and pleads for marrons glacés macarons. She also craves the sweetened chestnut spread that is so common in France, by way of Clément Faugier. But I won’t ramble since that’s already covered in my blog post: Chestnuts! From Pancakes to Ice Cream to Macarons.

 Then I realised that I hadn’t yet posted this recipe for chestnut vanilla ice cream. Mon Dieu!

When you’re as mad about macarons as I am (and I know I’m not alone on this one – come on, own up), you need to use up plenty of egg yolks while you’re ageing your whites for making them. Ice cream is one of my favourite egg yolk recipes, as it uses up 8 yolks in this easy, classic recipe. Ideally, it’s best to have an ice cream machine. I don’t have one, but use the ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid that still does the job well.  If you don’t have a machine, then just take the cream out of the freezer every 30 minutes (about 5 times) and mix up the partially frozen mixture well.

Chestnut vanilla ice cream with macarons

 

Chestnut Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Makes 1 litre

8 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
400ml whole milk
200ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod
pinch of caramel powdered colouring (optional)
2 small 100g tins of sweetened chestnut purée
a handful of broken marrons glacés (or whole ones if you’re feeling posh)

1. Cream together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

2. Heat the milk and cream in a heavy-based pan with the vanilla pod, cut in two lengthways. Bring to the boil, and turn off the heat for the vanilla to infuse in the creamy milk for 5-10 minutes. Scrape out the seeds from the pod and add to the cream.

3. Pour the creamy milk onto the egg mixture whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan on a medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the vanilla pod and set the mixture aside to cool.

4. Once cool, place in the fridge for 1-2 hours before pouring into an ice cream maker to churn.

Serve with marrons glacés and macarons, but of course.

Which leads me to apologise to many friends for appearing as cold as ice cream when it comes to saying hello just now. Truth be told, I’m struggling to keep up with the normal Mum duties, plus a couple of extra projects. Do you find you can do nearly everything on your daily list, except there’s always at least one biggie that constantly nags at you? It’s feeling hard to please everyone. But hey, just trying to stay cool – and eat ice cream.

There are also a few upgrades currently underway on the website, since wouldn’t it be useful if you could actually do a search on the blog plus recipes and find stuff?  New pages are also coming. Bigger pics. Ouff! Lots to look forward to.

Until my next blether, macaronivores.

Bonne semaine!

chestnut vanilla ice cream recipe